Hitchcock, Okla: Will the truth come out?
By Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief
Randy Gamel-Medler and his family have been prominent in the news these days. His story includes allegations of blatant discrimination, racism and even accusations that some people in the town of Hitchcock, Oklahoma burned his house to the ground. He says he can prove it all.
Many of the highlights of these events have been featured in recent media coverage. However, more of his story is revealed as we sat down with Gamel-Medler family today at the Freedom Oklahoma offices in Oklahoma City.
He has filed federal lawsuit filed this week claiming, “community leaders tried to force him out because he was gay and because he and his partner brought a black child into the nearly all-white town.”
He was the town clerk of Hitchcock and before long, he began feuding with longtime locals over how the town should be run. "I think once I became clerk and they found out they had a queer clerk with a black kid running the city, it just drove them crazy and they couldn't take it. They tried everything to get me to quit,” he said in an earlier statement.
In May, his house burned to the ground in a “suspicious fire.”
When the news broke initially, statements on social media were made about Gamel-Medler being a “troublemaker” and questions were asked like, “why would white people adopt a black child?”
Gamel-Medler talks about why he was banned from the Ft. Worth school his son attended before they moved to Missouri. “The reason I got in trouble was because I saw where the rain had washed the lead from the school building into the soil and students were getting sick from it; it was part of the playground. There were also rats in the cafeteria. So, I let the Ft. Worth Star Republican reporter in the school one time. The school was built in the 50’s. There were a few computers, but the school was run down. When I brought the reporter in to the school, the principal saw her.
“It went downhill from there. It was right after that, they banned me from the school, they hired a security guard so no parents could come on the school grounds and changed everything. Within three weeks, they fixed up the library, put up the flagpole and other repairs. They said they were going to do that anyway, but it happened right after they were in the news.”
Gamel-Medler said he doesn’t think they ever integrated that school. “The schools on the other side of town were beautiful, but the kids in our neighborhood just didn’t have a chance at this school.”
Gene Medler added, “At the time, the principal would run around with a bullhorn and yell at the kids. They thought they were always in trouble.”
Gamel-Medler was the Vice President of the school’s PTA. He said there was money missing from the school and the PTA.
“Xavian loved living there, too. The school was across the street from us and we went to church just behind us. There was a large population of black children in the area and one time he even said to me, ‘I like living here. There’s a lot of people like me, but not a lot like you!’”
Where they currently live, Xavian and his “Papa” (Randy) now walk several blocks to school and, according to Xavian, it takes them “nearly an hour.”
The family moved to Missouri for a short time, but soon after they found “their dream home” in Hitchcock. It was great for them; they had a home they loved where his husband, Gene, could work in Oklahoma City, just over an hour away. They lived in a “nice small town,’ had three dogs and were planning to adopt more children.
The dogs were all Gamel-Medler could get out of the house when the fire started. Xavian was not in the house that night – he was with his Godparents. His husband was at work in Oklahoma City at the time.
“On the police scanner, the Sheriff [Tony Almaguer] asked ‘who’s house’ and Undersheriff [David Robertson] said, ‘You know who’s house.’ That should be recorded somewhere.”
Gamel-Medler also said there was never ever a criminal investigation into the fire. In fact, when he and his husband returned from Oklahoma City that night, the garage portion of the house had been bulldozed.
“The fire department had bulldozed the garage. This was less than three hours after the fire started. The house was a total loss, but now part of it can’t even be investigated.”
Later, the insurance investigator asked who bulldozed the house. “We told them we don’t know exactly who did it.”
Husband Gene Medler arrived, looking at his house burned and partially bulldozed. “I thought, ‘Well what comes around goes around.’ Then, the deputy there said to stay off the property or I’d get arrested. I said, ‘but it’s my property’ and he told me to stay back on the road or I would be arrested.”
The couple asserts this same deputy, who’s name they don’t know, had said at an earlier time that there has never been any signs of racism or discrimination in this town [Hitchcock].
“After the fire, I had a gun in my truck which was in a holster. It was Gene’s gun and we took it to some friends’ house. Somehow, they [the Sheriff] found out about it and went to their house and took our gun; no search warrant, no receipt of them taking it, nothing. And now it’s nowhere to be found.”
Life is different now for the Gamel-Medler family. They have little furniture in their current home, clothes are sparse and they have barely any kitchen utensils or bathroom necessities.
“I went to grab a strainer the other night and suddenly realized, ‘Oh, that’s right. We don’t have one.’”
The family has been buying clothes, dishes and towels at Goodwill. “We’d normally be in dress clothes today for the interviews and courthouse, but we don’t have any.”
Husband, Gene, is a registered nurse and only has two nursing uniforms because all of them, except the one he had on at work that night, burned in the fire.
“Troy [Stevenson] and Freedom Oklahoma have certainly done what they said they would do. He’s gotten our story out,” Gamel-Medler said emphatically. However, Freedom Oklahoma has done much more. They are raising money to help buy the family needed supplies, some toys for Xavian and to help cover costs for their travel back to Hitchcock, when needed. They are also working to obtain a copy of all Hitchcock town records with a Freedom of Information request (see photo).
The family was making plans to grow. “We were planning to adopt five more children; black children so Xavian wouldn’t feel out of place. Xavian is Gene’s nieces baby, and people don’t realize he is family. We had a home that was large enough to accommodate that large of a family.”
Adopting foster children was I the works through Garfield County. “I had to go to Kingfisher, get copies of background checks and we had to undergo home studies. We had already bought bunk beds, sheets, pillows and rugs for the kids. There were three groups of siblings available and we told DHS ‘whoever needs us the most.’ We had filed this in Watonga and they closed our file because we are gay.”
Gamel-Medler said when they found out it was a gay couple, things changed.
“We were staying in Enid just after the fire. Someone called Garfield County DHS in Watonga and told them we were abusing Xavian, saying the ‘n’ word in front of him and putting him in danger. I did find out the complaint came from Blaine County.”
They found their current attorney, Mark Hammons, by simply making cold calls to look for one. “They gave me a date to come in. When we met with him, he said he’d be happy to take the case. I didn’t think we could afford it, but he said he’d take the case on contingency!”
Gamel-Medler said, “Were doing this for him,” as he pointed to Xavian. “I don’t want him to be 16 and wonder why we didn’t fight for him.”
Gamel-Medler said he wants them to stand in open court and say they made a mistake. “I want them to admit what they did. They knew we were going to move; they got their way there.”
People ask Gamel-Medler if the family plans to go back to live in Hitchcock. “I say, ‘Not in my lifetime.’”
More info about this case, including interviews with other parties, found here.
Copyright The Gayly 8/10/2017 @ 5:06 CST.